The Pathetic Life and Remarkable Afterlife of Elmer McCurdy: The Worst Robber in the West

by SARAH PETREA SCHULTZ

Nimbus has been creating original theater in the Twin Cities since 2001. Their latest endeavor tells the story of a real man, Elmer McCurdy, who fumbled several heists, died in a shootout, and evaded burial for 60 years. The Nimbus company flashes back and forth to contrast Elmer McCurdy’s actual antics with the posthumous narratives that took on a life of their own.

Nimbus staged this show in the charming Crane Theater- a warehouse space cleverly arranged with art hanging from the high ceilings and cozy nooks for pre and post-show mingling. There wasn’t a bad seat in the house, and the aisles were roomy enough for an outlaw chase! One of my favorite scenes took place in act two. The company presents an iteration of the Elmer McCurdy story as a silent movie, complete with rolling piano accompaniment and black narration cards. To compensate for the lack of dialogue, the actors ramped up their physicality. The outlaws exaggerated their swaggers and scowls, then tore away from the scene of the crime on imaginary horses. It would have been great to see the company infuse the entire show with that energy.

This show was filled with self-referential moments. The beat that made me laugh the hardest came when the tale of Elmer McCurdy took the form of a classic western movie. Elmer twists his way out of arrest by throwing a bomb into his pursuer’s hands. The pursuer wailed and flailed offstage, paused briefly to pick up a bench that needed to be cleared for the next scene, then resumed his wailing and ran offstage.

The Pathetic Life and Remarkable Afterlife of Elmer McCurdy: The Worst Robber in the West, runs May 4-19 at the Crane Theater. Call 612-548-1379 or visit info@nimbustheatre.com for tickets and more information.

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